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Canon t4i vs t3i: Who Should Upgrade and Who Shouldn't?

Updated on March 4, 2013

The Canon t4i is the latest release in Canon's entry level line of cameras. It builds on the success of it's predecessors - the Canon t1i, Canon t2i, and Canon t3i - and offers a few significant improvements of its own.

Reviews and comparisons of these cameras can be lengthy, and they can easily get bogged down in details. If you want a thorough review of all the features of the two cameras, read this comparison of the Canon t3i vs t4i.

In this hub, I plan to be much more brief, and much more focused. My goal is to answer a basic question: Who should upgrade to the newer camera, and who would be equally well served by an older, cheaper camera?

Indoor sports like girls basketball requires high ISO settings. The Canon t4i is far superior to it's predecessors in this area.
Indoor sports like girls basketball requires high ISO settings. The Canon t4i is far superior to it's predecessors in this area. | Source

Canon t4i vs t3i: Sports and Action Photographers Should LOVE the Canon t4i

Most of the improvements offered by the Canon t4i appeal specifically to action photographers, but they may have little use for other people.

The Canon t4i features an improved continuous shooting mode. It can capture images at 5 fps, compared to 3.7 fps of the Canon t3i. This lets you capture more images in a short period of time, making it more likely that you can capture the perfect moment in your sports photograph.

This alone would be a good reason to upgrade, but not a great one. The Canon t4i also sports improved low light performance. The newer camera can shoot at ISO 12800, whereas the Canon t2i and Canon t3i both shoot at a maximum of ISO 6400.

With indoor sports, this improved ISO performance is critical for achieving higher shutter speeds and crisp photos. That's an entire extra stop, meaning I could double the shutter speed or close the aperture down several stops to improve focusing. Upgrading from a Canon t1i (ISO 3200) to a Canon t2i (ISO 6400) made a huge difference in my basketball photos, and another upgrade to a Canon t4i would be equally helpful.

If you often shoot sports, especially indoor, low-light sports, then the Canon t4i is for you. Upgrade. It only costs you an extra $100 or so, and for you it is well worth the money. And comparing the Canon t3i vs t4i, this is perhaps the most significant improvement.

Videographers Should Like the Canon t4i

The next group of people that should consider an upgrade to the Canon t4i is videographers.

If you're familiar with the history of the Canon EOS Rebel line, then you know the Canon t2i introduced improved support for HD video and for manual controls in video. What has always been lacking, though, is autofocus.

The Canon t4i offers a significant improvement: the camera can now re-focus during video using the autofocus motor. It's not perfect, and sometimes the camera will search for the focus a bit, but it's much better than no autofocus.

If you're shooting longer scenes that involve moving subjects or a moving camera, you're going to need to refocus during your video clip. With some lenses (like the bundled kit lens), this is a clumsy operation. The cameras autofocus is much more effective, and therefore it's better if you can let the camera find the new focus on its own.

I'm not sure if this is as an important an upgrade for videographers as the ISO performance and FPS is for action photographers. But it is clearly an upgrade, and it's one that videographers should consider.

Canon t3i vs t4i: Anybody Else Interested...?

Well, that's up to you. I wouldn't be so sure.

Other improvements include a modified auto-focus system and a touch screen. These are nice, but I don't know if they're ground breaking for anyone. The touch screen, especially, is a cool feature that appeals to the technophile in everyone - but doesn't really change the core functionality of the camera.

Portrait photographers, for example, won't find anything useful in the Canon t4i that isn't in the Canon t3i. Both cameras can interact with Canon's eTTL wireless flash system. Image quality and resolution are similar, and increased ISO performance typically doesn't matter to portrait photographers who use flashes or natural light to light their subjects.

Likewise, street photographers won't find anything new and interesting here. Photojournalists might find the increased ISO performance helpful, insomuch as they have to shoot indoors without a flash or at night. You'd have to make the call as to whether this pertains to you.

Personally, I do a lot of sports photography. I find the prospect of shooting at 12800 ISO tantalizing, and that alone would justify me choosing the Canon t4i over the older EOS Rebel cameras. The rest of you may think twice, however, if that feature won't help you.

If you're considering the Canon t4i vs t3i, the important thing to remember is: Newer isn't necessarily better. Newer is more expensive. So only upgrade if it's going to help you and your photography. Buy older, cheaper cameras if they can do what you need.


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    • brianrock profile image

      Brian Rock 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks sgbrown. I had an old XT, and if I didn't do so much sports photography it would still work great. Gear much such a huge stuff with action shots. Good luck with the grandchildren!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This was very interesting. I still use my Canon Rebel xsi. I have had it several years and it has always worked well for me. I don't do any sports shots anymore, all my kids are grown. That may change once my grandchildren are in sports. Most of my photography now is nature photography. You have a lot of great photos here and gave very interesting and useful information! Voting this up, useful and interesting! :)